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Bott explores biking future with 3D titanium printer

Published: 09 July 2019

Updated: 09 July 2019

Bottpower have been pushing the boundaries of what motorcycles are capable of ever since the Spanish performance specialists powered their way to two category wins and fourth overall at Pikes Peak with their Buell-engined XR1R in 2017.

Now, with their latest project, a Fireblade-engined, Hossack-suspended sportsbike called the Morlaco, the firm are taking the latest computer modelling and 3D printing techniques further than ever before.

So, when they needed a bracket to hold the screen as well as the headlights, speedo and a GoPro, where most would draw the shape then mill it from a block of aluminium to create a part that works but is also heavy and also incredibly wasteful, Bottpower took a different approach.

"The first step was to make a study of the main loads that the bracket should withstand," Bottpower owner, David Sanchez, told MCN.

"We calculated the aerodynamic loads with CFD models in Altair’s Virtual Wind Tunnel software. We made a virtual wind tunnel, placed a virtual windscreen inside it and calculated the aerodynamic load of the bike running at 186mph."

3D-printed clock housing

Aerodynamics

After this Bott were able to create drawings for the maximum external volume the bracket could have. They then used another piece of software that took the calculations of the aerodynamic loads and trimmed away as much material as possible to achieve a good stiffness-to-weight ratio.

Then the design was smoothed out for a cleaner, more organic shape. Once the shape was confirmed the bracket was built in another program for a finite element analysis, which studies all the loads on the shape to be sure it’s up to the task. Having confirmed it, the shape was emailed to Optimus 3D who printed it out.

Bottpower 3D-printed bracketry

Titanium printing

3D printing in titanium is a very different process to working with plastic. A high-powered laser melts titanium dust at precise points to form the shape. The shape is then built up in layers, with the bars underneath acting as a support but also as a heat sink, to help cool the piece as it is made.

Once the part is finished, it’s a case of cutting off the support material, tapping the thread holes and fitting it to the motorcycle. As yet, 3D printing is not widely used in bike building, although manufacturers such as BMW have experimented with it, even going as far as 3D printing an entire S1000RR frame.

With little waste, ease of repetition and such efficient shapes, we’ll like see more of this technology in the mainstream within a few years.

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